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Vaccination of Zoo Birds against West Nile Virus—A Field Study

West Nile virus (WNV) is known to cause disease and death in humans and various animals worldwide. WNV has circulated in Germany since 2018. In 2020, four birds tested positive for the WNV genome at Zoopark Erfurt (Thuringia). Moreover, virus neutralization assays detected neutralizing antibodies (nAb) against WNV in 28 birds. In addition, nAb against WNV and Usutu virus (USUV) were found in 14 birds. To protect valuable animals and to reduce the risk of viral transmission from birds to humans, we performed a field study on WNV vaccination at the zoo. To conduct the study, 61 birds from the zoo were categorized into three groups and subjected to a vaccination regimen, where each bird received either 1.0 mL, 0.5 mL, or 0.3 mL of a commercial inactivated WNV vaccine three times. The vaccinations were administered at three-week intervals, or as per modified vaccination schedules. Furthermore, 52 birds served as non-vaccinated controls. Adverse vaccination reactions were absent. The greatest increase in nAb titres was observed in birds that received 1.0 mL of vaccine. However, pre-existing antibodies to WNV and USUV appeared to have a major effect on antibody development in all groups and in all bird species, whereas sex and age had no effect. After vaccination, no death was detected in vaccinated birds for more than 1 year.



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